Vinyl continued its remarkable revival by outselling CDs in 2022 for the first time since 1987, according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual report. The RIAA's year-end summary reflects this astonishing comeback, with vinyl albums selling 41 million units in comparison to just 33 million CDs.
As vinyl sales continue to grow, CD sales are falling. Revenues from vinyl records rose 17% to $1.2 billion in 2022, the sixteenth consecutive year of growth for the format, and accounted for 71% of all physical music format revenues. While CDs did experience a 2021 rebound after 2020, revenues from CDs dropped a worrying 18% to $483 million in 2022.
Streaming, unsurprisingly, continues to dominate the entire picture. UK music sales grew by 3.0% in 2022, a figure that the Digital Entertainment and Retail Association (ERA) remarked as being nearly double the level of a low point in 2013 in its own annual roundup. Unsurprisingly, paid subscriptions to on-demand music services continued massive growth across 2022, with the average number of US subscriptions for the year rising 10% to 92 million. Permanent digital downloads, however, declined 20% from 2021’s $622 million to a meagre $495 million.
Physical sales may have dipped slightly overall (3.8% since last year), but vinyl continues to keep tactile formats healthy in what is a predominantly digital market. The ERA reported UK growth for vinyl of 11% to £150.5 million, with CD album sales also falling 17.4% to £124 million. According to the ERA, physical sales accounted for £280.4 million in revenue compared with streaming’s whopping total of £1.6 billion.
It’s hard to say exactly why vinyl sales are seeing such a revival. Some have cited vinyl’s vintage, classic appeal when compared to the less popular CD format, while others have pointed to vinyl revival events and initiatives such as Record Store Day for this continued resurgent growth.
The UK’s very own Harry Styles landed the year’s biggest-selling album in the form of Harry’s House, as well as the most popular single via As It Was.
Per ERA, total music revenues are up 3% on 2021’s UK totals, bringing in a grand sum of almost £2 billion. This figure pails in comparison, somewhat, to the might of gaming revenues, with the game industry boasting £4.6 billion for 2022, a 2.3% increase on the previous year.
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Streaming is not profiteering from the point of view of the consumer. Vinyl from the point of view of consumer is profiteering, and often the master details are unknown. When CDs arrived they were priced at double of vinyl and similar profiteering occurred.